Catherine Forster

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2010 site specific multi-media exhibition at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum Chicago

Below is a description of "They call me theirs" as developed for The Hyde Park Art Center

"They Call Me Theirs"
A line from “Hamatreya” by Ralph Waldo Emerson

click on left image to view documentation of the installation

Click on image above left to view Box Set video, and above right to view prints

Multi-media Installation 2008
sculpture, video, sound and prints

The genesis of this project goes back three years to a trekking trip in Peru. It took me a good three days to “un-plug”, but once I adjusted, an awareness of my surroundings surprised me. There was a presentness that now I can only occasionally attain. However, I’ve come to question the authenticity of my experience. What was truly mine? What had actually been framed by National Geographic and travel videos?

Authentic observation and participation are core to the project. Upon my return, I started documenting the seasonal changes around the perimeter of my home. I began to search for areas with less human influence, including local nature preserves and subsequently, the heartlands of Illinois and Wisconsin. “They call me theirs” creates an experience intended to question the distinctions we make between the natural and mediated world.

The installation reverses the experience of the outdoors by neatly packaging the four seasons in a “box set” that plays on a video monitor inside a rustic cabin, suggesting that our efforts to purify our experience with nature have actually taken us farther away from it.
Adjacent to the gallery housing the cabin, is a “hanging garden” composed of large scale ink jet prints on aluminum sign panels. The prints were sourced from video stills, then painted, and digitized, creating a luscious though synthetic environment.

The title of the work is taken from a line in the poem “Hamatreya” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which questions man’s desire to claim ownership of the land that is inherently owned by nature. In the poem, the Earth responds, “How am I theirs, / If they cannot hold me, / But I hold them?” Similarly, the exhibition holds a sound-insulated cabin or shrine for the viewer to enter. A handcrafted hardwood box containing a small personal monitor with images of the four seasons sits inside. Two different cacophonous soundtracks play from both the interior and exterior, highlighting the tension between the realities of the two environments.

Great care was taken in the of sourcing and processing the materials used in the project. Box Set is made of solid Maple with minimal hardware incorporated in the design. The cabin is built from an extinct Northern White Pine that was salvaged from the old Sears building. A Chicago landmark, built in 1905 at 3333 West Arthington St.

60" X 60" triptych, ink jet print on aluminum sign panel



Cabin construction

Cabin installation Hyde park Art Center Chicago